Reading of the Week: Stressed & Expensive – the Chiu et al. Study on the Health-Care Costs of Distress and Depression

From the Editor

He isn’t able to work. He often can’t get out of bed. His partner is beside herself. And his diabetic management is poor.

He’s the sort of patient who we see often – in specialist offices (like mine) and in family medicine clinics, and also in emergency departments and on hospital wards. His depression is affecting his life, his family, his workplace – and, yes, his health. Here’s a quick question: how much higher are his health-care costs than those who don’t struggle with depression?

In this week’s selection, we look at a new paper by Maria Chiu et al., considering the costs of depression and distress.

business-comment_01_temp-1382010303-525fcdbf-620x348Distress and depression: Painful to patients – and costly to the system?

In this Reading, we review the paper, and consider the larger context.

DG

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Public Coverage for Evidenced-based Therapies for Depression and Anxiety?

Should there be public coverage for evidenced-based psychotherapies for major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder? The Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee recommended yes in a new draft paper, and gave comment on ways of doing this.

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The Committee asked for public feedback. In my submission, I noted: “The recommendations of the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee are reasonable and thoughtful.”

You can find my full submission here:

gratzer-ohtac-submission

Reading of the Week: Mental Health Care – Doing Bad, Feeling Good? The Hayes et al. Study

From the Editor

Greetings from Ottawa. This morning, the Canadian Psychiatric Association’s 67th Annual Conference opens here. And the agenda looks great, and includes the release of the new Canadian guidelines for the treatment of schizophrenia.

It’s difficult not to feel upbeat, as people from coast to coast to coast gather to discuss new findings and new ideas on problems like refractory depression and chronic pain and, yes, schizophrenia. And this is a great time to be involved in mental health care – as stigma fades and societal recognition grows.

But how are we doing in terms of actual outcomes? This week, we look at a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. Hayes et al. consider mortality for those with severe mental illness and the rest of us. Unfortunately, the authors find that the mortality gap has grown with time.

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Ottawa: Host city of this year’s CPA Annual Conference

In this Reading, we review the paper and an editorial, and consider the larger context.

DG

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Reading of the Week: “All Aboard the Bipolar Express” – Beth Beattie on Her Illness & Her Decision to Speak Out

From the Editor

“I was a victim of mental-health stigma – both societal and self-imposed.”

Lawyer Beth Beattie makes that observation in her essay about her experience with bipolar. Her piece – which was just published by The Globe and Mail – is moving and thoughtful.

Bipolar Express: Beattie writes about her journey

In this Reading, we highlight her essay, and comment further on the importance of people speaking out about their illness.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Can Lithium in Drinking Water Help Prevent Dementia? The Kessing et al. Paper from JAMA Psychiatry

From the Editor

Since the extraordinary work of John Cade some seven decades ago, lithium has been used as a medication to help people with bipolar. But the history of lithium use is longer – for many years, people have understood that it has medicinal value, and bottled water containing lithium was popular at the turn of the twentieth century (long before Dr. Cade started medical school).

We know that lithium affects the brain in many ways (for example, it slows apoptosis, or programmed cell death); we also that know that dementia can work on those same pathways, but in a negative way (it may sped up apoptosis). In this week’s selection, the authors wonder if lithium can prevent dementia. It’s a big question – and the authors tap a big national database. They find a non-linear correlation between lithium in drinking water and dementia.

Tap water: A potential prevention for dementia if it has lithium in it?

So – does this paper represent something of a breakthrough? We look at the paper and an editorial to answer that question.

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Reading of the Week: Coming to Canada – Immigration and Mental Illness

From the Editor

Last week, when in Halifax, I went to Pier 21, a museum that now stands where more than a million immigrants entered this country by ship. The exhibits describe the aspirations, the experiences, and the struggles of these people – our people. As a nation of immigrants, here’s an important question to ask: what impact does immigration have on mental health?

Different studies show different things of the immigrant experience. On the one hand, some studies find that immigrants (and refugees) have higher rates of psychosis (including a recent Canadian paper by Anderson et al.); on the other hand, other studies show a “healthy migrant effect” – that is, immigrants have lower rates of mental illness overall.

The August issue of The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry has a thoughtful paper that considers immigration and mental illness. The authors tread on familiar ground – there is a rich body of work in this area, but they offer a Canadian perspective by looking at people in Montreal, and they consider mental health utilization and service satisfaction.

Pier 21: A boat, a pier, and the beginning of the new beginning for hundreds of thousands – but are there implications for mental illness?

Spoiler alert: immigrants tended to have lower rates of depression and alcohol dependence than the general population.

DG

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Reading of the Week: “13 Reasons Why” – Is This TV Show Glamorizing Suicide?

From the Editor

Is a popular TV show glamorizing suicide?

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series in which the main character suicides – depicted graphically in the show. We will leave it to critics to judge the value of the show as a cultural contribution. Here’s a relevant question for those of us in mental health: is this show promoting suicide?

San Diego State University John W. Ayers and his co-authors consider google searches after the show’s premiere aired, bringing data to this discussion.

13 Reason Why: Popular Show, Problematic Effect?

In this Reading, we consider their research letter and an editorial responding to it – and the larger debate about the series.

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Reading of the Week: “Your Smartphone Will See You Now” – Torous on Digital Psychiatry; Also, the Costs of Homelessness

From the Editor

A few weeks ago, a patient’s daughter called. She was deeply concerned: the patient was acting differently, she explained. “He’s sick again.” She noted that he was starting to go on long walks at night, and to different neighbourhoods – something he does when he’s starting to get ill with his bipolar. She feared that, without a change in medications and careful follow up, he would end up in the hospital again. As a psychiatrist, that type of information can be invaluable – a clue that a patient is doing less well.

Could technology help us find clues for emerging illness, maybe even before family members or patients themselves?

This week, the first selection weighs this question. Harvard University’s Dr. John Torous considers big data and mental health. In his essay, “Your Smartphone Will See You Now,” he reviews current trends and writes: “I predict that this technology will have an enormous impact on psychiatry.”

mjkxndi1nwClever cover – promising future?

In the second selection, we consider a new paper that looks at the costs of homelessness in Canada. As part of the work of At Home/Chez Soi, the authors answer a basic and important question: what are the costs of homelessness?

Please note: there will be no Readings for the next two weeks.

DG

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Reading of the Week: ECT and Inpatients – An Underused Tool?

From the Editor

It’s a powerful tool that helps people with refractory depression and other illnesses.

It’s a treatment that carries a heavy stigma, and is used less today than even a decade ago.

Both statements describe electroconvulsive therapy (or ECT) – perhaps the most controversial intervention in psychiatry. And while it has been studied for decades, little work has been done considering the impact of ECT on inpatient readmissions. In this week’s Reading, we look at a new JAMA Psychiatry paper that studies ECT and readmissions.

Spoiler alert: the study authors found it decreased readmits.

Electroconvulsive therapy at Winwick Hospital in 1957: relevant then as now?

The paper begs a larger question: is an important tool in the treatment of those with mental illness being underutilized as newer (and less effective) treatments are chosen?

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Reading of the Week: “Taking On the Scourge of Opioids” – Dr. Sally Satel’s New Essay

From the Editor

Today, the addicted are not inner-city minori­ties, though big cities are increasingly reporting problems. Instead, they are overwhelmingly white and rural, though middle- and upper-class individuals are also affected. The jarring visual of the crisis is not an urban ‘gang banger’ but an overdosed mom slumped in the front seat of her car in a Walmart parking lot, toddler in the back.

So writes Dr. Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist, about the opioid epidemic.

Dr. Satel is writing about the United States, but these problems are also seen north of the 49th parallel. Canadians remain the second highest per-capita consumers of opioids in the world; for the record, only our southern neighbours best us. And, like in the U.S., opioid use has soared in recent years – and so has misuse.

Opioids: little pills, big problems

How did we get here? And where do we go?

This week’s selection: a new essay by Dr. Satel. Drawing on the words of Nicholas Eberstadt, she describes “a new plague for a new century.” Dr. Satel writes about the roots of this drug problem and considers options moving forward.

DG

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